Harrisburg Happening

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Assessing the GSA Harrisburg Courthouse Assessment

I've crunched some numbers, and reached a conclusion - the North Third and Forster location will be the site for the new courthouse. A proviso- using the chart found in the executive summary of the GSA Harrisburg Courthouse Environmental Impact study, which assigns color blocks to each impact on each location, and assigning numbers to each color, one can get an idea of the relative standing of each location. Assuming the GSA is weighing each factor equally (which is an unknown, since Abby Low refuses to release the actual criteria to the public) the location with the least negative impact is North Third and Forster (score = -34) followed by North Sixth and Verbeke (-35) and the worst impact North 6th and Basin (-36)

I assigned a 1 to the green cross, a -1 to the green square, a -2 to the yellow square and a -3 to the red square.

The results are close, which means any internal shift in the relative importance of any one factor will change the results. In other words, the GSA can manipulate this any way they damn well please.

15 Comments:

Blogger GastonStreet said...

North 3rd and Forester? How do they figure that location would be the least negatively impacted? Did they actually visit these sites to see what would have to be torn down to accomodate a building that size. And did they take into consideration the parking and traffic problems at that location?

April 11, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

Actually, that was just a guess - using the data they provided. If you read the whole 299 page document, you will see that they really didn't do an economic impact study, or anything that approached a logical assessement of the sites. Very slapshot.

April 11, 2006  
Blogger Jones1234 said...

Yeah but did you see the tax assesment? I can't imagne they'd take away that tax revenue from the city.

Also, at the meetings last fall they said that site didn't meet Homeland Security requirements.

April 11, 2006  
Blogger GastonStreet said...

Did you get this info on the next meeting date....

Mid-Atlantic (3) Harrisburg, PA, U.S. Courthouse Project

Mid-Atlantic Region PBS
(215) 446-4500



Project Summary

GSA plans to construct a new 262,970 gross square feet stand-alone U.S. Courthouse in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The existing Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse does not meet the federal government's security and expansion requirements. The 1960s era Reagan Building was initially fit out with just two courtrooms. Two more were added later, but are not enough to accommodate the increasing caseload of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

In contrast, the new courthouse will accommodate eight courtrooms. There is no design at this time and there are several options to fit the requirements on any of the three short-listed sites.

In addition to the U.S. District Court, the new courthouse may also house the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, U.S. Marshals, Office of the U.S. Attorney, U.S. Probation Office and the Office of the U.S. Trustee.

Site Evaluation Process

More than twenty sites were considered for the construction of the new U.S. Courthouse. The sites were evaluated on many factors including site size, proximity to the Central Business District in Harrisburg, security, site amenities, proximity to public parking facilities, and access to transportation routes. Consideration was also given to environmental, socio-economic, and cultural resources including but not limited to floodplains, historic structures, current land use, surrounding land use, utilities, and zoning. Three sites were advanced for further study:

3rd and Forster Street Alternative Site
6th and Verbeke Street Alternative Site
6th and Basin Street Alternative Site
Environmental Assessment (EA)

The EA, prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, is a technical document stating the results of the various assessments on the physical, cultural, social and other environments and the impact these will have on the affected residents and the city. The study also evaluates concerns raised by the community, including:

economic impact on the city of Harrisburg;
social impacts;
residential and business relocations; and,
historic resources.
The study objectively reviews the impacts and benefits of all three sites currently under consideration. The study's findings are not indicative of a preference for any of the three sites, nor do they indicate in any way the relative viability of any one site over others.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the draft EA. A formal hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, located at 1205 North 6th Street, Harrisburg, PA. Persons attending the public hearing will have the opportunity to offer written, private and/or public testimony. Responses to testimony will not be given at the meeting, but will be addressed in the final EA. This will be done to allow for all testimony to be given, and to provide fair, accurate responses pursuant to NEPA provisions. Comments can be sent to:

Abby Low, Project Manager
U.S. General Services Administration
20 North 8th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

or via

HarrisburgCourthouse@gsa.gov

All comments must be received by May 11, 2006. All documents that are available for public comment can be found

April 11, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

They said a lot of things at the meetings - but they simply don't say what weight each criteria carries. For example, does loss of revenue from the taxes lost on the Forster street location count more than an other factor. Also, if you read the section on impact, they make clear that the residents there will have an easy time relocating to other downtown housing, but that the elderly will have a more difficult time. Race also may be a factor - they make a point of calling the Forster area white and the others African-American. If I read correctly between the lines, I see a fear of a Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (applied to governmental agencies) UNder that section, you can sue if the government action has a disparate impact on a protected class. Last time I looked, white, gay, middle class or retired and largely well to do folks weren't a protected class. ( Not that gays shouldn't be, but federally, they aren't)

April 11, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

Love the short notice.

April 11, 2006  
Blogger hbggirl said...

That's bullshit. (I mean the "protected class" crap.)

What about the HOMEOWNERS in the 3rd/Forster area who have real interest in their properties? I would think that should weigh pretty heavily vs. renters who can be told to move at any time, more or less.

And besides, my understanding also is that the downtown site isn't even big enough for the plan - I have said all along that it's a red herring.

April 12, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

We'll see - but I actually think it would be simpler and fairer to buy out the 12 single family homes (that's the number in the GSA report) They would have the means to buy elsewhere in Harrisburg. The renters will have trouble, especially the elderly and disabled in GLick and the single mothers in the apartment complex. And the restaurants and nightclubs could just move across Forster on Third - plenty of room for nightclubs and businesses along Third. My other concern is that the Market would suffer from having the apartments or elderly housing moved. Some judges and assorted others aren't going to replace the steady income from actual households who shop at the market.

Personally, I have far less sympathy for the middle class people in the Forster tract that others. (I have to confess, I do live by the Market)

April 12, 2006  
Blogger Jones1234 said...

The whole thing is bullshit. Utter bullshit. Displacing anyone is just....BULLSHIT.

It's almost 5. My vocab is limited right now.

April 12, 2006  
Blogger hbggirl said...

The report may say 12, but that's my old 'hood and I can tell you that a hell of a lot more than those dozen will be OUTTA there if this happens.

Plus. The space is just too damned small.

April 12, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

Ideally, they should put the darn thing on an empty lot. There are plenty - what about right behind the market, ending on Saford Street?

April 12, 2006  
Blogger Jones1234 said...

Because that would be easy. And cheaper.

I think it's beyond ridiculous that the Government can just snatch land whenever they want.

Methinks Thomas Jefferson and friends roll over in their graves when the Feds do this stuff.

April 13, 2006  
Blogger Anniken Davenport, Esquire said...

I think it is because the sensitive souls who work for the federal jusiciary don't want to be too close to what one of the GSA point persons referred to as the criminal element. The individual now denies making such a comment, after someone expressed surprise that the feds had the crime figures calculated by streets - (they don't - it is only available citywide)

April 13, 2006  
Blogger GastonStreet said...

You would think being closer to the "criminal element" would be a plus...no excuse for not showing up at a court hearing date when you just live down the block. Actually it sounds perfect to me, after all, criminals are the reason this court house is being built, right??

April 13, 2006  
Blogger Ad Hominem said...

I think the courthouse would most likely deter crime in an area. How much crime is going to happen near a building surrounded by federal agents, cops, and gaurds? Plus they have cameras.

Slap that place down near the criminal element and watch it move away from the judicial presence.

April 13, 2006  

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